In which someone long thought dead returns, a choice must be made between blood and bats, and a family confrontation brings about change.
From the start I’d like to make special mention of the art. Initially I was hesitant when I’d heard Trevor McCarthy would be replacing J.H. Williams III as the book’s artist. I loved McCarthy’s art in Gates of Gotham and his previous fill-in issues on the title, but J.H. Williams had a style that was clean, sharp, and ultimately set an almost unmatched tone and atmosphere. Any hesitation I had is long gone now and I’ve accepted McCarthy with wide open arms. Maybe I would have been more broken up over Williams’s departure if I didn’t know it was so he can draw Neil Gaiman’s Sandman prequel, or that he’s still co-writing the book and doing the occasional cover. While McCarthy’s art isn’t as sharp and detailed at as Williams, he manages to keep the same breathtaking layouts and splash pages that his predecessor used and uses them himself to marvelous effect. There’s a particular two-page image about halfway through where the art truly shines and the bright red of Kate’s hair and lips contrast beautifully with the all-white room.
The art isn’t the only good thing here though. The story continued to explore a bit more about Chase’s history with her telling, and showing via flashback, a day three months earlier where she was attempting to track down and identify Batwoman. In her search she led her unit to an airstrip that was believed to have been a training camp for the Religion of Crime, a cult obsessed with Batwoman. Things go bad, as they always seem to do when mysterious cults are involved, and the situation ends in slaughter and discovery; an ancient sarcophagus which holds something relevant to Batwoman today. Although Chase originally filled an antagonistic role in the title, a role she still technically fills, I’ve come to find her an interesting and compelling character. She’s intelligent, well trained, and very driven with a will and tenacity Kate would respect if there wasn’t such animosity between them. I hope we’ll continue to learn not only more about her, but the DEO as well.
Kate Kane is someone whose relationships, not just with the DEO but her family as well, has always been rocky and unsteady and this issue brings some changes too each. The DEO has worked alongside her to accomplish similar goals and to accomplish good. They have thrown much support behind her in ways of new gadgets and technology while Kate herself had remained somewhat defiant and held information back from them whenever possible. Now Director Bones decides it’s time to push Kate to give them what they want, and he knows just how to do it. This brings Kate to one of the most difficult choices she’s had to make with the DEO as they make a deal for her to give them the Batman’s identity.
Meanwhile, her relationship with her family has been an absolute roller coaster with a couple dozen spirals and corkscrews thrown in. Kate is a woman filled with anger when it comes to her father and has, as of late, been pushing her cousin and former ‘not-sidekick’ Bette away. It all culminates at the end of this issue in her family confronting her about her dealings with the DEO. It brings some feeling to the surface in everyone, including Kate Kane’s fiancée Maggie, a GCPD detective. Maggie gives Kate a choice of her own, one that will hopefully fix this fractured family.
There really isn’t anything bad here aside from a few nitpicky things. And, as I love to pick nits, I’ll do just that. There were a couple of panels where the art was a little sloppy, though not bad. Some things seemed a little unfinished and muddy, but it was more than made up for with several incredible pages. I also feel that there hasn’t been enough exploring into Maggie as a character as of late. So much has changed in her life and I’d really like to see what she’s thinking and how she’s reacting to this all in a deeper way.
Batwoman has been one of the best books to have come from the New 52. The book has been constantly interesting, mysterious, and fun. This issue is no exception. I don’t understand why there’s so little buzz about the title as this is a series that should definitely have people talking. I understand this book may not be for everyone, namely people who don’t enjoy good character work, gorgeous art, and a unique and intriguing story, but I strongly recommend picking up the first volume, Hydrology, in trade.